The following is an alternate history of the war in Iraq that considers some of the choices civilian and military leaders could have made—and in our world failed to make—that might have produced a less catastrophic aftermath to the 2003 invasion. Click through the links to compare this counterfactual with what has actually happened so far.
Baghdad, March 20, 2007— A lot has been accomplished since Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in March 2003. Saddam Hussein was overthrown, a new federal constitution established, free elections held, and oil production increased to 3.5 million barrels per day; the economy is booming. How was this achieved in only 4 short years? Good planning.
It could have been otherwise, but thanks to newly leaked memos we now know that the Administration, the Pentagon, and the State Department fortunately heeded the advice of top level officials working on the "Future of Iraq Project." Even before the decision to liberate Iraq from Ba'athist tyranny was made, the Administration had the foresight to assemble a crack team drawn from the highest corporate, academic and bureaucratic levels to devise contingency plans for a post-war Iraq. The Future of Iraq Project (FIP) labored mostly out of sight of the public for more than a year before liberation took place.
Fully informed of the Department of Defense 's war plans, the FIP reorganized itself into the Provisional Civil Authority (PCA) in December 2002, establishing various departments with clearly outlined post-war responsibilities. The PCA departments included Security, Politics, Reconstruction, Economics, and Civil Administration. The PCA staff grew to more than 8,000 experts just before liberation.
Below are a few highlights of the most important aspects of the PCA's successful post-war strategy.
Politics Department: Modeling its efforts on the example of General Douglas MacArthur's drafting of a new constitution for Japan after World War II, the PCA Politics Department prepared a federal constitution for Iraq. The idea was to engage immediately the attention of various ethnic and religious factions in a political contest rather than in street fights for supremacy. The constitution also had a bill of rights including freedom of speech and religion, speedy open trials, and the protection of private property.
Security Department: The Security Department had the toughest job in the immediate postwar period. Ending Saddam Hussein's brutal regime would bring decades of submerged resentments to the surface, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was profoundly concerned about the possibility of widespread looting. Fortunately, the PCA's Security Department had worked closely with the ground commanders of Coalition Forces and had coordinated plans to protect crucial infrastructure including power plants, oil depots and pipelines, roads, bridges, hospitals, and government ministry buildings.
Most importantly, using spy-satellite intelligence, the Security Department had identified hundreds of weapons depots scattered around Iraq and made it a priority to secure them as the Coalition Forces advanced. This kept thousands of tons of munitions out the hands of possible insurgents. Experts believe that this effort forestalled the development of a significant guerrilla movement.
In the face of growing violence, the Security Department revved up police training dramatically. By October 2004, the Security Department trainers were turning out 15,000 new officers per month. By late 2005, 225,000 police officers were patrolling the streets of Iraq. This saturation of police nipped a lot of political and street violence in the bud—violence that would surely have overwhelmed a smaller force. In 2007, Baghdad is no walk in the park, but the murder rate is no worse than that of many American cities in the early 1990s.
Civil Administration: The PCA Media and Civil Administration Department was prepared to establish stability with a rough and ready administrative plan for Iraq's towns and cities. First, the Civil Administration Department hammered out and printed a simple 40-page provisional criminal code.
One of the more important projects of the PCA's Civil Administration was the creation of a property registration system. This is an ongoing process, but it is giving people secure title to land and homes that they have occupied for decades.
Reconstruction Department: Months before the liberation of Iraq began, in what in hindsight is seen as a risky but brilliant move, the PCA's Reconstruction Department negotiated and signed confidential long term contracts with leading engineering, construction, and project management companies like Bechtel, VECO and AMEC. Under these contracts, the companies pre-positioned heavy construction supplies and equipment, oil pumps, and electric generators in the Gulf region. Months in advance, the Reconstruction Department staff also shared intelligence about the state of Iraq's infrastructure, enabling the companies to refine their postwar construction plans. A great deal of progress has been made in restoring electric power and water to Iraq's cities and towns, rebuilding and supplying Iraq's hospitals and clinics and getting Iraq's children into schools. Iraq, and the world, is benefitting from the country's restored and improved oil production, which has kept prices stable at around $40 per barrel.
Economics Department: The PCA's Economics Department prepared for the liberation of Iraq by devising a plan to create a central bank and by printing billions of new Iraqi dinars. The new dinars were exchanged one for one with the old dinars by June 2003.
The Economics Department set up the Iraq Permanent Fund, in which half of Iraq's oil revenues are deposited. Modeled after the Alaska Permanent Fund, the returns from the diversified investment in this growing fund are distributed as dividends annually to each of Iraq's six million households. These dividends will go a long way toward boosting Iraq's future economic growth.
Finally, the success of U.S. postwar planning has led to the withdrawal of most American troops, leaving only 40,000 in the country today. And there have been some geopolitical benefits from the liberation of Iraq as well—Syria and Egypt have begun political liberalization, and Libya, Iran, and North Korea have all agreed to dismantle their nuclear weapons programs.
Thanks to wise leadership, we can only look back with a mixture of relief and bemusement at the alarmist "quagmire" scenarios imagined by so many early critics of the war.